Archive for December, 2011

December 12, 2011

The Grey Whales of Baja

Families love the curious grey whales migrating through Baja

Oh, to pat a young grey whale!

Whether you spell it grey or gray, these whales are mighty interesting.

Descended from filter feeding whales that developed over 30 million years ago (30 MILLION!!), grey whales consume ocean worms and crustaceans from the ocean floor and filtered through their baleen.

Growing to 50+ feet long, and weighing as much as 80,000 pounds they are certainly formidable. But curious and friendly too as you can see. Grey whales can live up to 50 years or more, and every year they perform the longest known migration of any other mammal. Their summer feeding grounds are in the icy Arctic waters of the Bering Sea, and in winter they move to their breeding grounds, the warmer waters off the coast of California and Mexico. All along the Pacific coast you can watch their glorious journey.

Thus, thousands of grey whales arrive each year in Baja California. The warm temperature, shallow depth, and limited access to the open sea make the lagoons the ideal places for these marine mammals to mate and to give birth. This environment protects them from the Orcas who use speed when hunting – and speed is hard to obtain in these conditions. A perfect safe haven for the grey whales and their young!

The gestation period for grey whales is 11 – 13 months. The dimply, shortened face is typical of young grey whales, and up close you can see the facial hair on the babies. They can be so curious, they will leap from the water to get a closer look at you – and yes, move in for contact too. A February vacation week is the ideal time to catch this migration in Baja, when the moms and babies are plentiful.

There is someting about the mystery, magic, and curiosity of these giant beings that just makes me want to hug them. How about you?



December 7, 2011

Is it the Right Time to Visit Egypt? If You are the Right Family, YES!

kids at the pyramid

How big is the Great Pyramid?

We had a family visit Egypt over Thanksgiving. Just a mom and a daughter, determined to realize their dream of witnessing history as it stands, as pyramids and temples and desert. They were just plain old excited to be going. When they got back, this is what mom Liz had to say:

“We had a FABULOUS trip to Egypt!

In a nutshell — NOW IS A TERRIFIC TIME TO GO TO EGYPT! It seems counter-intuitive with demonstrations so frequently in the news but it’s true! The demonstrations tend to take place only in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. My 10 year old daughter and I were actually in Egypt during the most recent demonstrations and we NEVER ONCE felt the least bit concerned or nervous. First of all, the first few days of our trip we were staying at the Mena House Oberoi in Giza outside of Cairo. One day we drove through Cairo to see the Citadel, the Alabaster mosque of Mohammed Ali and the Khan el-Khalili bazaar — none of which is near Tahrir Square. On another day we went to the Egyptian Museum to see the mummies of the pharaohs and treasures of Tutankhamun. The museum is right off of Tahrir Square but our excellent driver was clever and took us to/from the museum on a small side street. My daughter didn’t even know there were people in the square and we had the museum practically to ourselves! In the room full of the actual Tutankhamun treasures there were only 2 other tourists! We had a similar experience at the pyramids of Giza. When we climbed up inside the Great Pyramid to the actual tomb we were the only ones there! We saw two other tourists as we were climbing back down. I have pictures of Abu Simbel, the pyramids and other famous sites without a single tourist in them.

All of the Egyptian people were incredibly friendly and gracious and English was spoken by practically everyone we met. Some of the highlights for us were dinner with my daughter’s pen pal in their home, climbing up inside the Great Pyramid, sailing in a felucca at sunset on the Nile, seeing the treasures of Tutankhamun in a quiet and relaxed environment, and the visit to the carpet school where we got to do a few stitches ourselves and my daughter played soccer with 4 or 5 Egyptian girls.

Our guide, Amira, was TOTALLY AWESOME. Her English was outstanding and her knowledge of all things Egyptian was incredible. Moreover she was thoughtful. For example, realizing that we were totally exhausted one day she suggested we get some Egyptian koshari (a type of macaroni casserole) for dinner in containers to take back to our room. Another example — I said I was interested in buying some spices and she called ahead to a local store that she knew of to make sure it was open and then we swung by for 15 minutes where I bought my spices and took several pictures. She even negotiated the prices of our souvenirs for us!

Roughly 50% of Egypt’s economy is driven by tourism. One way to help Egypt get back on it’s feet is to go there!”

What more can we say?